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Game Of The Month September 2022

game of the month - red rising

It's now October, where the nights are drawing in faster and the leaves are starting to brown and fall of trees... That calls for one thing. Game of the month.

Red Rising - Hannah Blacknell

There are very few times that a game based on a book truly reflects the spirit and story of the book correctly. Red Rising is a tale of a dystopian future where “the society” separates out people into “colours” or castes and this determines where they live, what they eat and how they live. This game is a hand crafting game with its roots in Fantasy Realms, but with the additional management of multiple tracks to manage along with creating synergies within your hand.

Many of the cards have individual characters on them from the book, these are all themed around their personalities and relationships with others in the book which now I am re-reading the book series I have a new found excitement for. This had to be my game of the month, and although I enjoy this game at any player count, I think it might be my favourite solo game.

This is the only game where I use a calculator to add up my points. Although ordinarily this would mean that scoring is tricky, in this scenario you need to keep track and add up at the same time. I just love scoring 300 or even 400 points in a game, it makes me feel clever and this is exactly why I love it.

Yak - Pete Bartlam

Hello everybody, my name is Pete Bartlam and I am a component junkie!

And I’m not even trying to get cured. So when Yak arrived on my gaming table I was hooked. The solid coloured, wooden wall blocks are lovely; the milk-bottle shaped, joint of ham shaped and loaf of bread shaped food tokens are lovely; the free-wheeling and exactly matched to their cargoes carts are a delight and then there’s the eponymous Yaks themselves.

All credit to the sculptor who encapsulated in a few deft strokes all the power and majesty of the Tibetan titan whilst still making them so cute. And don’t even get my started on the little baby Yak! The slot together standee of the Stupa isn’t exactly stupendous but that aside it’s all so well put together.

This would be irrelevant, though if the game itself wasn’t up to it but thankfully it is. Recommended to me by Arthur at ZATUCon22 it turned out to be quick to learn, easy to play and yet with a reasonable amount of depth to your slab selection and block building decisions. An interesting reverse movement-flow game mechanic to upset the plans of those who over-strategise and a deft dual scoring system to counterbalance the merits of one or two large groups of similar shaded stones versus many smaller sets. I’ve still to work out which is the most productive and it can be make for a tense terminal totting up to throw up the winner.

It scales well from 2 to 4 players and I also enjoyed just playing multi-handed solo. I’m taking it up to my daughter and son-in-law’s next because it’s the sort of thing we can fit in between the demands of my 11-month old granddaughter. In a few years time she’ll enjoy playing with the Yaks themselves, another bonus. Each game takes a reasonable 40 minutes or so and who doesn’t enjoy the fun of building walls of multi-coloured bricks?

Coup - Seb Hawden

When I was deciding what game to write about for this game of the month feature, I looked back at my recent plays and Coup stood out by a mile. This may surprise some people as it's not a new game and not talked about too much but stay with me for this one, there's a method to my madness.

I have recently got a lot of colleagues at work playing board games at dinner and they have all really taken to Coup. The lying, the deduction and the pure hilarity that comes with a few dinnertime games of Coup has been brilliant and brightened all our days. Watching my colleagues, who are getting more and more into the hobby as I introduce them to more games is so rewarding to me. Watching their faces brighten as they realize, after a few rounds how to play Coup is awesome.

I can lie? Throughout the whole game? Yes, yes you can. We recently had a game where I started with two Contessa’s, which if you know Coup, is a rubbish starting hand with very little wriggle room, I however convinced everyone I had totally other cards and ended up winning the game. When I turned my cards over at the end, laughter erupted, people were shocked and I walked away victorious with my hands held aloft.

Watching your friends get more confident, watching them get more and more into the game and start to form strategies is so much fun. Also, seeing other people in the office wander over and wonder what all the shouting is about is also hilarious, especially seen as the office is normally quite quiet.

No other game I have played this month has had such a profound effect on my friends than Coup. It has brought us so much joy, I have learned so much about my colleagues and I think it has brought us all closer together as both a gaming group and most of all, as friends.

Guild Of Merchant Explorers - Matt Thomasson

Without a doubt my Game of the Month for Sept has to be The Guild of Merchant Explorers. I recently acquired this and it has been hitting my table multiple times a week for the past month. Lets found out why.

The Guild of Merchant Explorers is a bingo style game where each Era (or round) a card is drawn representing a terrain type. Each player then places an explorer cube on the matching terrain type on their player map. There are some very easy to understand placement rules. Terrain types are grouped into clusters and once all spaces have explorers placed on them a village can be placed. At some point in each Era players will gain a special bonus/ability.

In addition to terrain spaces each map also contains ruins, which can be explored for either a one off, immediate bonus or end game scoring, cities with which trade routes can be established and discovery towers. These all score points in various ways and varying amounts.

The Guild of Merchant Explorers is a very quick game which feels almost like a flip and write (but with cubes instead of pen/pencils). Each round the same terrain cards are revealed, you just don’t know in which order. This gives you some good forward planning and strategic moves. There is a decent amount of reply-ability in the game with four different maps, a bunch of different abilities/bonuses and six objectives per map, with only three being used each game. I really like the way each player becomes more asymmetrical as the game progresses with their unique abilities/bonuses.

The game has minimal interaction apart from racing for the three objectives. Two player or solo is my favourite player count. The solo mode can be a challenge and really makes you carefully plan and think about hitting the objectives. You need to hit a point threshold as well as score all three objectives, with the AI simply claiming objectives when an Era card is revealed. It is a very “clean” playing game with tough choices, quick playing and a decent amount of replay-ability. It is no wonder that this is my game of the month.

Beyond The Sun - John Hunt

Beyond the Sun has become an absolute hit and has spent the last month getting a lot of play time with different groups of friends. At heart it’s an engine builder / worker placement game but with one massive, ‘unique’ conceit. Yup – the main board is one enormous tech tree. This is the system around which all others orbit to excellent effect.

Through the card decks which populate the upgrade slots to the imaginative and balanced mechanics combining immediate effects with future and varied action choices. This creates phenomenal freshness and replayability. It creates a marvellous frission as the first to unlock each upgrade triggers an event and then gets choices over what the upgrade card will be. Cue much head scratching and strategizing – and it is a game of strategy and not purely tactics. The tree and the systems that enfold it – the player board and its unlocks, and the galaxy map with planets to control and colonise – they demand some flexible thinking, but they provide opportunity for proper longer term strategy and not just reactive turn by turn play.

And here too is a game which is Euro in essence but still has proper player interaction. The tech board is so clear you can see how your opponents are developing their plans and move to stall and counter. The galaxy board has elements of area control and while there is no really punitive combat you can compete for worlds and bump enemies into deep space which wastes their previous movement actions.

So what’s wrong with it? Nothing really. Maybe some of the randomness with card draw could upset, but not for me. The art and design is perhaps Spartan, but speaks to me of corporate brutalism which works with the theme. Oh hang on... the box art suck. Everything else, phenomenal. Get this to the table.